When you're growing up and living at home, getting closer to your family almost happens automatically, since you're with them all the time. But if you don't make a conscious effort, it's really easy to lose touch when you get older. If that's happened to you, it may be time to rekindle your relationship.
Not all of us have the best relationships with your families, and the fortunate thing about being an adult is that you get to choose — at least to an extent — how much they're in your life. You may decide you don't want to put up with their toxic behavior or problematic social views or that you'd rather spend your vacation time with your partner or friends than your parents. And that's your prerogative.
But chances are, even if all you can handle is an occasional text message, you still want your relationship to be as positive as possible. We can simultaneously reject certain aspects of our families and still want them in our lives. Plus, sometimes, relatives we hadn't even thought about much can surprise us and become some of our best friends.
Here are a few ways to become closer to your family, even if you're super busy and you have had a complicated relationship.
1Set Up A Regular Phone Call
"If you talk to relatives twice a year, the only things you'll likely hear about are big things," says marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney, LMFT. "But if you talk every week or more — even for 10 minutes — you'll start to hear interesting details and facets of their lives." If you think you're too busy, try setting up the calls for a time when you're doing something else anyway, like walking to work or folding laundry. Talking over the phone will bring you closer than email, says Whitney, since there's more of an exchange.
2Ask About Your Family's History
Your parents must have stories they've never told you about their lives and the lives of your ancestors. Your aunts, uncles, and other relatives probably have even more you haven't heard. Whitney recommends asking about things like your parents' jobs as kids and your grandparents' favorite toys. "Finding out more can be really interesting, and it gives you an opportunity to connect on a different level," she says.
3Send Them "Thinking Of You" Messages, No Matter How Short
A card is a great way to show you're willing to go out of your way for your family, but even just a short email or text to say they popped into your head or something reminded you of them is better than nothing, says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, Founder & Chief Relationship Advisor of Relationup. "Sending something that let’s them know that they are on your mind can be very meaningful to them." A birthday card or a holiday card is the perfect way to let relatives know they're important to you.
4Send Them Photos
If you're not sure what to say, pictures are worth a thousand words. It's one thing to tell your family you went on a hike or saw your favorite band and another to let them experience the event with you. "Shoot a few [photos] off to family members on a regular basis to keep them informed of what you are doing [and] who your friends are, and to let them see your smiling face," Milrad says.
5Have A Virtual Family Game Night
6Ask Them For Advice
Asking someone for advice shows that you trust them and value their opinion. If you don't feel comfortable opening up about something personal like your relationships, asking about something mundane like what dress to wear to your friend's party can still have the same effect. Especially if you don't have much in common, pretty much anything to give you a reason to talk will do.
Even if you have a complicated relationship or have lost touch with your family, it's not too late to rekindle things — it just requires an extra effort.